On August 10, 2015, Wi-Fi provider iPass announced a deal to include Devicescape’s 20 million amenity Wi-Fi locations with its existing commercial Wi-Fi network. As iPass mainly deals with business travelers who pay a monthly service fee, the inclusion of Devicescape’s amenity locations is a major endorsement by iPass of the quality of those 20 million locations. Success with iPass should make it easier for Devicescape to reach other service providers who have been previously reluctant to use a network built from public amenity (i.e. free) sites.
Devicescape neither builds nor manages Wi-Fi networks. Instead it uses crowd-sourcing data pulled from its software installed on various devices to identify Wi-Fi networks and provide information on how to access them. These networks are generally located in public areas such as restaurants, bars, and retail shops offering free access to visitors. The locations are not part of a larger service provider commercial Wi-Fi network. Devicescape bundles the different amenity locations together in what it calls a Curated Virtual Network (CVN).
iPass, on the other hand, sells a monthly service for access to commercial-grade Wi-Fi networks that it has cobbled together through wholesale agreements with service providers. As these networks charge a fee, customers, in most cases business travelers, have high expectations for the quality of service. Adding amenity locations to this mix shows that iPass is confident that Devicescape’s free sites are on par with commercial fee–based sites. If they aren’t, iPass risks losing subscribers and damaging its financials.
This deal could have major upside for Devicescape. In the short term the company will benefit from selling software licenses to iPass. Those licenses are needed to put Devicescape’s connection manager on iPass clients’ devices. Long term this deal should open doors for Devicescape to partner with other high-profile service providers.
Until now Devicescape’s service provider clients have typically been operators that differentiate on price and are more willing to risk network quality to maintain those relatively low prices. Operators that highlight network quality, not just price, have looked at amenity Wi-Fi with skepticism: how could something free be of acceptable quality? The deal with iPass could change all that, increasing Devicescape’s credibility and encouraging more operators to make amenity Wi-Fi available to their subscribers.
Public WLAN Hotspots, 1Q15, TE0006-001080 (June 2015)
“Wi-Fi calling and data offload drive continued public WLAN growth,” TE006-001081 (June 2015)
Daryl Schoolar, Principal Analyst, Intelligent Networks
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